Larkin waited a bit until his eyes adjusted. There
were old men at the bar, and most had a face that
would resemble Patty's pig.
He felt good. A return to the roots. This part of New
York was known for its Irish bars and Irish-American
people. He found the bar through an ad in the Irish
All he wanted was to relax, have a black beer and pass
the two week he had visiting the Big Apple. Then he
saw her dancing. She did not have the figure of a
dancer. She was much to heavy on top. But she had legs
that looked like they ran to the armpits.
And that Irish music filled the soul.
Then a portly middle-aged man grabbed and hugged her.
"It is so nice to see you at home," the man said. She
walked with him to the bar, and there was a woman,
clearly a mother, who hugged her, too,
She was a beauty. Red hair cropped as if she had been
in prison. Clearly athletic with her participation in
the step dancing. He thought for a moment she might
have smiled in his direction. That gave him a bit of
courage to move to the bar where she was downing a
"How are you'," he said.
She turned abruptly and answered quickly. "Just fine."
"Who the hell are you," the mother said.
"I'm just a guy who like step dancing. But I have not
done it for some time. Perhaps someone here could help
A mischievous glint lighted the girl's eye. "Well.
Some. Let me show you," she said. She wanted to dance
him into the ground.
A half hour later she still was smiling, but it was
clear that both were in shape.
"I was gong to embarrass you, but it appears that you
have been going to the gym. Have you ever danced Irish
"When I was a kid in Boston," he said
"How about a beer," she responded.
I just got done with a little bit of military
training, which is why my folks are happy to see me. I
was away for 10 weeks after graduated from college."
"Good grief, you must be an officer or something,"
"Yes, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marines,." she
replied. "So think twice before messing with me!"
So are you like have killer hands" Larkin asked.
"Probably," she replied.
"Well, let's dance normal style and promise not to
kill me." Larkin responded.
The rest of the night was discussion in their Irish
heritage. Weak Catholicism, love of country. The whole
"I have two weeks here. Can I see you again," Larkin
asked. A sly smile told him that she liked him.
He wondered how he could keep the truth from the
woman. He was beginning to have feelings. But he
better not. This was an important trip.
"Boy, there are a lot of fine women there," said Sgt.
McAvoy on the way back to the Waldorf downtown.
"Any that you would trust your back to?" asked Larkin.
The sergeant suggested one young lady, one of the
The two weeks were being spent with planners at the
New York Police Department.
Larkin got the nod because he earned a break from
combat, and his experience gave him a lot of knowledge
about terrorism. The police contacts had lined up a
daunting schedule of talks and encounters.
Larkin was building a reputation in the corps, and
when he spoke listeners knew he had been there and
He felt a certain affinity with the red-haired
stepdancer. He, too, had completed a post-college
program to become a Marine officer. But he served
three years in the ranks before going to college, so
he had a good understanding from both the bottom up
and top down. That knowledge demonstrated itself in
how he handled and protected his troops and maybe why
he made a quick jump to captain.
"I'm glad you came," said the red-haired Diedra when
he returned to the Irish bar a week later. Her green
eyes flashed. He allowed that he was happy, too, and
he spent much of the evening chatting, doing a little
dancing and flattering the mother a bit.
"Want to get out of here," he asked, and seconds later
they were on the street in search of a late-night
"There' s one over on the other side of the park,"
Three young men interrupted the stroll, and one had a
In a second, Dierda planted stiff fingers into the
man's throat, and his companions froze in amazement as
both the knife and the assailant fell to the floor.
The companions split, and Larkin and Diedra quickly
walked away from the gagging young man on the
"That was pretty impressive," Larkin said. "I am glad
I have someone to protect me. You know the man who was
with me last week said that you were the kind of woman
who could watch a man's back."
"Does your back need watching," she laughed.
Over a late-night pizza Larkin broke the news that he
was leaving the East Coast in two days.
"I knew our time together was perishable," said
Diedra. "Where will you go and what will you do?"
"It's just another job," Larkin said. "But your status
is a bit uncertain. Aren't you waiting for the Marine
Corps to tell you where to go and what to do."
"I probably have two more weeks at home myself, and
then I am expecting to get an interim assignment,
maybe teaching hand-to-hand combat at the U.S. Naval
Academy. Then I have a bit more than six months in my
basic combat class where new officers are trained to
lead others. So I am going to be bouncing around for
perhaps as much as a year. Annapolis and then back to
Quantico for the real deal.
"Did I mention that I have been involved in personal
defense and martial arts since I was a kid?"
"You did not mention it, but I think you made it clear
to the guy with the knife in the park."
The evening ended with an exchange of mail addresses
and a promise to have another pizza later in the year.
Larkin told himself that he was in no position to have
a girl friends, and Diedra certainly was going to have
her hands full. Maybe next year if he lived that long.
Larkin lived, but just barely. Six months later he was
in Syria heading up a snatch unit in an effort to save
a kidnapped U.S. Red Cross worker. He got the job
done, but a bullet broke the bone in his right upper
arm. That meant medical leave until it healed and an
impressive black sling.
He moved in with a friend in Washington and spent a
couple of months writing reports, correcting reports,
evaluating new technology and helping colleagues
create a training module on extraction of kidnapped
prisoners. So it did not take long until he got a call
to present the module to officers about to graduate
their training course in Quantico.
He was hoping that his green-eyed stepdancer would be
there. He spotted her outside the MCX, the Marine
Corps Exchange, the same day he moved into the
bachelor officer quarters for the weekend. Where else
can you get a $26 room? Larkin was just out for a run
with his arm strapped to his side when he saw her. He
did not approach her and just continued running. He
kicked himself for the rest of the night, but it would
have been awkward to explain exactly what he was doing
So she was here, he through, and guessed that she
would be among the young officers he was to instruct
Monday morning. That, too, would be awkward. Showing
up in full combat gear and a ghost mask would be
overkill, he reasoned, but perhaps he can just show up
in civilian clothes.
And that is what he did. He gave his talk and answered
questions. She was in the front row, slightly thinner
than before and a bit more muscular. The red hair was
pulled back but appeared to be a little longer.
His friend, the chief instructor, introduced him as a
special operations expert who had more than his share
of experiences. No name was given. The explanation was
that he need to maintain his anonymity.
His presentation included slides of various ways to
reaching a target. There was little that had not been
featured on the television: Bailing out of a C-17 with
an inflatable boat, slogging toward the target on
small vehicles, dispatching eyes in the sky to find
the enemy. But he seemed to generate the most interest
when he spoke of killing.
“We are not in the business of taking prisoners. Enemy
commander or enemy shoemaker. We do not have the
luxury to decide,” he cautioned.
He knew that most, if not all, of the students were
not headed to combat post or special operations
training. He, himself, had not been trained that way.
He wondered sometimes if he had been in the Navy if he
could have completed the rigorous SEAL training,
although he had a lot of respect for those who did. He
just stumbled into the role of leading difficult
missions. Still, most of the questions were not about
operations but about maintaining fitness. All present
had been brought to the level of international
athletes, but some worried that after getting
assignments, they would slack off.
“You either run or don’t run,” he said. “And you
either do your 200 sit ups or you don’t. It is up to
you. But your physical condition is a big part of your
evaluations.,” he told them.
“What do you do personally? How about stepdancing?”
said a female voice. He stifled a laugh. “That
requires a lot of alcoholic intake, but there is some
guy buying over at the officers club tonight if you
will give the lessons. I mean your instructor here.”
“I didn’t think she was that sharp,” he said to
himself as he ducked out the door.
“Thanks for nothing, buddy. You got me standing rounds
for 35 thirsty lieutenants tonight.,” groaned his
buddy, the instructor.
“Don’t worry. I’ll kick in, and I even will come a
little later and have a few brews myself.
“So you remembered,” he said to Diedra when she
finally spotted him and sat down at the officer’s
“I have a lot of motivation to remember my favorite
dance partner,” she said. “I was not surprised that
you are Marine officer. There is just something in the
way we carry ourselves. Anyway, your sergeant spilled
the beans in New York to the woman behind the
bar. Nothing serious. Just that you both were
servicemen. You don’t get that endurance by going to
the gym. I was expecting and even hoping that you
would turn up sometime this year.”
“What now,” he asked. She replied quickly:
“We court. Short distance. Long distance. Depending on
what they throw at us. And if our feelings continue to
develop, as I am sure they will, and we survive, we
figure out away to come together.”
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